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Review: MIKU, AND THE GODS at ArtsWest

An undercooked allegory exploring grief.

Review: MIKU, AND THE GODS at ArtsWest
Lola Rei Fukushima and Ben Symons in
miku, and the gods at ArtsWest.
Photo credit: John McLellan

Metaphor in storytelling is fine. If you need/want to disguise your main themes in a fable, great, but make that fable something interesting. Instead, Julia Izumi's "miku, and the gods" currently playing at ArtsWest disguises a journey through grief, illness, and loss with an allegory that meanders at best, and mostly goes in circles until its ham-fisted reveal to what it's really about.

The story as it begins is surrounding Miku (Lola Rei Fukushima), a 12-year-old girl searching for the Gods in order for them to help her become a God so she can "make the world better". She's guided along the way by Shara (Sherif Amin), a minor God of war, One Who Is Wise or OWIW (NEVE) and her Grandmother Seiko (Naho Shioya) who guide her through the realm of the Gods and the underworld. Along the way they meet a young boy, Ephraim (Ben Symons), who doesn't want to be a God, he wants to be an Olympian, as in be a swimmer in the Olympics, problem is he's a terrible swimmer.

From the word "go" the play has so many moments of confusion and "why are they doing that?" that I lost count. The show begins with a voice over explaining and numbering scenes of the show, such as "Note #1" or "Movement #7" that lent nothing to the piece other than an inability to make the scenes have definite beginnings, middles, and endings. So much so that when the play finally did reveal itself to be about Miku's grief, it then proceeded to end about three times over. Each time I thought, "Oh this is it ... nope." Until finally the play did end in a shining ball of confusion, but no one knew it was over until one of those voice overs told us "End of play." If you need to tell me that you finished telling your story, then you didn't do it very well.

Beyond its threadbare story, the 100 minute, no intermission show as directed by Alyza DelPan-Monley keeps going in circles with repetitious moments and superfluous and meaningless dance/movement pieces which just amounted to pretention rather than good storytelling. The most interesting thing to look at on the stage were the multicolored patchwork costumes from Janelle Abbott.

Review: MIKU, AND THE GODS at ArtsWest
NEVE and Ben Symons in
miku, and the gods at ArtsWest.
Photo credit: John McLellan

Even the cast seemed to have trouble getting through this one. Much of the cast felt to be reaching for lines and stammering through scenes. This may be ironed out in time but certainly didn't aid to a smooth opening night. Fukushima has a few moments but seems to feel that a 12-year-old is a one note, cloying, yelling machine. In fact, no one really had any growth or varied moments in the show. Symons came across as a flat trope of a child. Amin too found his niche of flamboyant god but never wavered away from it. And Shioya was supposed to be playing a grandmother but just came across as stilted and under rehearsed. The most entertaining and promising moments came from NEVE as the God OWIW. They've got incredible stage presence and great comedic timing with some side-eye that could sink a ship.

The show, on the whole, just felt sloppy and undercooked and with a script that went nowhere. Some of those things could be worked out in time, the other is a lost cause. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "miku, and the gods" from ArtsWest an underwhelmed and disappointed MEH-. Metaphor is fine, just make sure you know where you want to go with it and get there quickly.

"miku, and the gods", performs at ArtsWest through July 3rd. For tickets or information visit them online at www.artswest.org.



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